God, I'm Listening
I’m writing this on Good Shepherd Sunday, on the occasion of the Fifty-fifth World Day of Prayer for Vocations.
In today’s Gospel (Jn. 10: 11-18) we encounter Jesus as the Good Shepherd.
When reading this passage with vocational discernment in mind, one verse in particular (Jn. 10:14) stands out for me:
“I am the good shepherd;
I know my own
and my own know me”
What a deep love Our Lord has for us! It is a rich and personal love which shows familiarity and a most cautious care; He knows us by name and is concerned for our safety, our wellbeing and our happiness.
As people of faith we enjoy an intimate relationship with a God who remains close to us. God-with-us shares in our daily joys and struggles and, like the Father that He is, knows us. He knows our deepest desires, our fears, our wants, our needs and our hopes. In return, when we spend time close to God, we come to know Him too.
Vocational discernment is a time of closeness and intimacy with God. With raw honesty we present ourselves to the Father and tell him we’re listening; we’re listening to Him and to His will for us.
If we are to discern that perhaps there is a call to priesthood or religious life, where do we go next? It is very important that at this point, if we haven’t already, to seek out spiritual accompaniment. It is not recommended to try and figure it all out on your own and in fact an objective voice can often provide much needed rational thought. It is easy to become obsessive when figuring things out in your own head and become a bit stuck.
For the diocesan priesthood it would be wise to speak to your vocations director, if there is one, or perhaps a priest you know who could point you in the right direction.
For religious life things may appear a little more complicated. Firstly there is the finding of a congregation which you feel at home in. It could be that you already feel close to one and at therefore you should ask to speak with their vocations director. However, it could be that you’re not sure where you would best spend your vocation to religious life and in that situation the advice is to go and see.
Do your homework! Look online for congregations’ websites and social media accounts and get to know their charisms and apostolates. Which ones speak to your heart? Which one seems like the place where you could best offer your gifts and talents in love and service to God?
You should write to those religious congregations and explain that you are in discernment. They’ll often invite you to spend time with them so that you can get to know them and their way of life, but also so that they can get to know you. This might seem daunting, but actually it’s a very exciting time. A brief lived experience of a community can offer a rich insight into a congregation that no pamphlet or YouTube video can.
Most importantly, pray. Keep that discussion with the Lord alive. Knocking on the door to diocesan priesthood or religious life does not mean you’re signing up for life, rather you’re saying “God, I’m listening.”